You know your child has the capability, but you are frustrated that time after time of checking online grade reports or reviewing progress updates from school that your child’s grades just aren’t as high as what you know she can achieve.
Parents routinely believe, “If my child just put in more effort, they would succeed” but when it comes to engaging a child to intrinsically want to put in the effort, parents frequently scratch their heads and wonder, “What am I doing wrong? What should I be doing differently?”
Eliminate the possibility of an underlying problemUse conference time to talk with teachers about behavior and challenges you child is having in school, even if the conference is considered optional by the teachers. Teachers spend much more time with a variety of children than you likely do, so they are usually the first to notice what you might not, such as eyesight challenges, “Johnny always has to get out of his desk to read the board,” or physical challenges such as dyspraxia which can be an underlying cause of poor handwriting and motor coordination challenges, such as using scissors. There are a variety of standardized tests your school counselor or outside therapist can administer to identify any areas of concern and offer you a roadmap to further assessment.
Teach organizationAdults can easily find themselves frustrated at a child’s lack of organization but often forget that we learned our organizational skills somewhere and through time and life experience. Kids aren’t naturally organized, especially as they advance into higher grades and the complexity of organizational needs increases. Create a special homework station and designate homework hour where no one in the house is on a device or screen to minimize distractions.
Each day, set aside time that you and your child will go through a backpack or binder and sort papers into piles of “complete” and “needs to be completed” and then help her use her binders and folders more efficiently so she develops a routine for herself.
Praise effort over intellectIt’s easy as a parent to deliver praise in the form of “you are so smart.” But general praise for intellect doesn’t motivate a child to continue a precise behavior. Pause before you praise and try to focus on the specific behavior you wish to continue seeing more of from your child, for example, “I’m proud of you for staying focused on your spelling and not allowing yourself to get distracted.” Or “I really like how you are using your best handwriting on your essay.” When something goes wrong, ask “what could you do different next time?” to help your child create her own solution and put her natural intellect and knowledge to use.
Use what already motivates your childAdults and kids are motivated by different things, we might work for money or praise but what about your child? Does your child love video games? Time playing apps on your phone? Time with friends at a local bounce house? Use what motivates her to motivate her grade improvements by setting up a point-system or reward chart that helps her see progress towards achievable goals. Give your children choices for what their rewards are and discuss the behaviors that will lead to achieving points on the chart in advance to boost empowerment. Small rewards for small achievements combined with larger rewards for bigger achievements help children feel like they are making progress.
Find fun ways to help with challenge areasNo kid wants more homework but if a task feels fun and not like work, the benefits could be twofold – your child will learn without realizing it and grades in challenge areas will improve. If writing is an area of improvement, creative writing prompts are a fun way for kids to fine tune their writing skills without feeling like they have to write another boring essay. Make a game of using creative writing prompts, even engage the whole family, and give a small prize to the child who completes a certain amount of words in a specific time.
If your child struggles with math, online math games are plentiful for all ages at sites such as MathPlayground.com or CoolMath-Games.com. Kids can work to their ability with achievement awards built into each game, giving kids a sense of accomplishment.